Can we retire “zero tolerance”, finally, now? Horrible idea.

I disagree with nearly all of the Obama Administration’s policy and practice regarding public schools, but the role the Obama Administration had in this should be celebrated:

Faced with mounting evidence that get-tough policies in schools are leading to arrest records, low academic achievement and high dropout rates that especially affect minority students, cities and school districts around the country are rethinking their approach to minor offenses.
In the past two decades, schools around the country have seen suspensions, expulsions and arrests for minor nonviolent offenses climb together with the number of police officers stationed at schools. The policy, called zero tolerance, first grew out of the war on drugs in the 1990s and became more aggressive in the wake of school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado.

When I talk to adults about what’s going on in schools I have noticed that because the vast majority of people once attended a public school, adults who don’t follow this closely for one reason or another tend to compare any current policy with their own experience. That’s probably natural and it’s understandable and all, but it may not be sufficient, because many of the policies and practices I object to are somewhat like what adults may have experienced in 1970 or 1980 or 1990, but they are different, worse, because of degree. So, for example, if I say I object to the nutty proliferation and single-minded focus on standardized testing, today, right now, I’m not talking about when you aced the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in 1987. I’m talking about an obsessive focus on standardized testing. I’m talking about out-of-control testing obsession like this.

Similarly, “zero tolerance” is not ordinary discipline and it’s not removing disruptive students from a single class session or keeping them after school or calling their parents. Zero tolerance is extreme, unsurprisingly perhaps, given that it’s called ZERO tolerance.

It’s turning kids over to law enforcement or the courts for relatively minor infractions. It’s taking them out of school and putting them into the juvenile justice system when they shouldn’t be there, and once they’re in that system they start to believe they belong there and once the big court machine starts rolling it’s hard to get them OUT of it and back to school even if we in the system know they don’t belong in a court.

Beginning in 2009, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education aggressively began to encourage schools to think twice before arresting and pushing children out of school. In some cases, as in Meridian, Miss., the federal government has sued to force change in schools.

In the most extreme cases, this is what “zero tolerance” looks like. This is from the Meridian, Mississippi DOJ complaint (pdf):

Defendants’ concerted actions punish children in Meridian, Mississippi so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience, and deprive these children of liberty and educational opportunities on an ongoing basis.

The repercussions of the constitutional violations perpetrated by Defendants are
severe and far-reaching. Children are regularly and repeatedly handcuffed and arrested in school and incarcerated for days at a time without a probable cause hearing, regardless of the severity-or lack thereof-of the alleged offense or probation violation.

Research suggests that arrest, detention, and juvenile court appearances have profound negative short-term and long-term consequences for children’s mental and physical health, educational success, and future employment opportunities. One study of national data suggests that arrest doubles the probability of dropout. Even one court appearance during high school increases a child’s likelihood of dropping out of school, and court appearances are especially detrimental to children with no or minimal previous history of delinquency. Detention disrupts children’s engagement with families, school, and work, and may slow or interrupt the natural process of “aging out” of delinquency. Moreover, children detained pending adjudication are more likely to be committed to a juvenile facility than children who are not detained, regardless of the charges against them. Research links incarceration of juveniles to significantly higher school dropout rates, which translate to higher unemployment, poorer health, shorter lifespan, lower earnings, and increased future contacts with the criminal justice system.

The “probation violation” process explained in the complaint is crucial to understanding this, because that’s how kids who never belonged there in the first place remain in the juvenile justice system once they enter it. When kids are charged and adjudicated within the court system for relatively minor incidents at school the terms of their probation or ongoing court supervision often include a provision where any future incident at school is not just breaking a school rule but also a probation violation, which then lands them right back in court. This can go on for months and sometimes years.

91 replies
  1. 1

    Who makes these rules?

  2. 2
    Mnemosyne says:

    Back when I was in school, we would take a standardized test maybe once a year, and usually more like every two or three years. Nowadays (from Kay’s link)?

    One of the districts gives 14 different assessments to all students at least once a year in at least one grade, the report said, and some assessments are administered for several subjects multiple times a year, resulting in 34 different test administrations. The other district had 12 different standardized assessments but 47 separate administrations over the course of the year.

  3. 3
    srv says:

    If we just merged the penitentiary and education systems into one, we could save a lot of money and trouble and there wouldn’t be any public stigma. Plus no more Columbines.

  4. 4
    jayjaybear says:

    Not just zero tolerance, but entrapment of mentally disabled children, as well. The linked article isn’t the only case in that school district, either.

  5. 5

    @Mnemosyne: When I was in school, being called to the principal’s office was a scary enough prospect that it kept most of us in line.

  6. 6
    BGinCHI says:

    The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    What a shock Meridien, MS is a culprit in this. Wonder why that state finishes last every single year in ed stats. Much of it is poverty, but a lot of it is racism and fucking stupidity.

    Faulkner/Welty weep.

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    @jayjaybear:

    Am I overly cynical if I think the school considers getting rid of some of the more expensive special education students to be a feature and not a bug?

  8. 8
    raven says:

    We can, sure. Will we? I doubt it. The deal the judge made with me (and my parents) was that if I went in the Army on my 17th birthday my record would be expunged. Otherwise it was juvie for me. I’m sure the big green machine was a better option but not by much. That option is no longer available.

  9. 9
    Schlemizel says:

    She who was stupid enough to marry me works in an elementary school, one where 80% of the kids get free breakfast & lunch (which means very poor). Discipline is a huge problem. Its a combination of factors and none of them were made better by zero tolerance.

    It will still come down to the people running the show, there will be mistakes made on being too tough and not tough enough.

  10. 10
    👾 Martin says:

    In the end this is all just bureaucratic hoop-jumping in order to earn your crumb of public dollars. Open up the dollars and the hoop-jumping will diminish considerably. When there’s money to go around, we don’t need to invent bullshit rules to justify cutting your budget.

  11. 11
    catclub says:

    @srv: “Plus no more Columbines.”

    Except by the guards going postal.

  12. 12
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: School boards. Usually at the behest of counsel. Or the noisiest of their constituencies.

  13. 13
    scav says:

    Standard Issue Hypocrisy. They panic over gateway drugs but gateway convictions? Huzzah! Profit Center! So long as also strategically applied (in the Boboian sense), also goes without saying.

  14. 14
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Mnemosyne: You can’t really get rid of them. If you have money to burn you can buy them various kinds of out-placement. Another place where well-heeled districts have the edge.

  15. 15
    Kay says:

    @BGinCHI:

    It’s very resistant to evidence, I’ll tell ya. They now think “scared straight” actually makes behavior worse. It never made any sense to me. Have you ever watched one those sessions?

    Who knew that surrounding them with enraged, out of control adults in uniforms and positions of power might mean they then model that behavior? Screaming chaos seems to create more screaming chaos.

  16. 16
    👾 Martin says:

    @Schlemizel:

    It will still come down to the people running the show, there will be mistakes made on being too tough and not tough enough.

    Neither too tough nor tough enough are related to the problem. Poverty is the problem. Blaming the schools for the discipline problem is like blaming the squirrels for the cold weather.

  17. 17
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Mnemosyne: Data driven, baby.

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’d be OK if the Federal government would just pay the 40% of special ed costs they promised they would when ADA was passed. In the case of the school district I live in it would eliminate a lot of the budget cuts that had to be made because the State has cut back on their share of schol funding because AUSTERITY!.

    Sadly, many disabled kids are not getting the education or help they should because the district has to fund special ed out of it own pocket. That means a lot of ‘educational assistants’ many of whom do a fine job but are limited in what they can provide and not trained professionals. At my wife’s school that have a kid who cannot speak, is confined to a wheel chair, cannot read (at age 10) and has diapers. His prognosis is no improvement yet he has an EA all day long (someone has to change those diapers) and gets some instruction from an actual special ed teacher every day. There have been others, not as disabled, that could also be better served if they were in a setting where they got more instruction and work but the district cannot set up a separate school for that because it would violate ADA.

    This is a lose – lose, the school spends extra money for no real benefi and the child is not geting the care they really need.

  19. 19
    Kay says:

    @raven:

    I think one big difference is they don’t get second chances. I was talking to my daughter about some of the people she went to high school with who mess up, people who didn’t go to college, and she said she had this 4 year period where she was in a controlled semi-adult but forgiving environment (college) and could screw up. She had 4 extra years to grow up. Her classmates who go right from high school to adult living on their own don’t have what amounts to training wheels. If they screw up they get evicted or fired or arrested.

  20. 20
    Violet says:

    Kay, thanks again for your excellent posts on education. You do such great work finding things most of us miss and putting together issues. If only our education “betters” would listen to you instead of Arne Duncan and Michelle Rhee.

  21. 21
    Citizen_X says:

    @srv:

    Plus no more Columbines.

    But more Atticas!

  22. 22
    KG says:

    my high school, in a very wealthy OC town in the late 80s/early 90s (before I was even a freshman), removed the bathroom stall doors because they were afraid of drugs. you only took a deuce at school during class or if you really had to go. I was lucky enough to avoid the zero tolerance bullshit, but there was always a level of stupid involved in it. like the story of kids getting suspended for bringing a parring knife to school to cut fruit.

  23. 23
    raven says:

    @Kay: And those are probably people that finished. The one’s that dropout are even worse off.

  24. 24
    👾 Martin says:

    @Kay: There’s a good case to be made that the American Dream is simply the ability to risk, fail, and recover. Safety net, bankruptcy protection, and so on are all designed to encourage us to try new things. It’s very difficult to be entrepreneurial when failure, which is likely, dooms you forever.

    That applies to every level. Screwing up is important – it’s how we learn best. But you can’t learn a lesson that you are prohibited from repeating.

  25. 25
    raven says:

    @KG: Orange is the New Black even had a door on the shitter! Orange indeed.

  26. 26
    RSR says:

    My wife (public school teacher in Philadelphia) finds the system fails to intervene in time; social workers and other trained professionals are not present in enough numbers to adequately keep kids on the edge from falling over it. However, Philadelphia, I would say, is far from zero tolerance (infinite tolerance? – not really). Repeat trouble makers do not get the intervention and/or discipline that their behavior demands. A small number of students cause a significant amount of disruption for the entire school.

    I certainly believe that sending a child into the criminal justice system, even as a minor, should be the last resort. But I don’t think that is the mindset of a large portion of policy makers. Clearly, budget priorities reveal that it is not.

    As a side note, the number of school police in Philadelphia has been cut dramatically over the last few years; it’s something like 40% of the number of officers as compared to just a few years ago. Meanwhile, the school reform movement has a system where they can just kick out any trouble maker, leaving the public school system more and more concentrated with the kids who need the most intervention, in fewer and fewer schools.

  27. 27
    Hungry Joe says:

    A few years ago a boy was expelled from a middle school around here because he accidentally left a small pocketknife in his backpack after a camping trip. He was a kid with good grades and no history of any trouble. Even the school administrators believed that it was an accident. But they expelled him anyway, because of Zero Tolerance, explaining — not at all apologetically — that their hands were tied.

    This quite effectively teaches kids 1) not to have accidents, and 2) that adults in general, and authority figures in particular, are idiots.

  28. 28
    Ruckus says:

    Kay should get an award for all her work on school and voting issues.
    I am better informed by far for her work. And I read other sources but most of them are too basic. As in, here’s the highlights of a problem, with no further info or rational. Kay gives us depth, reasoning and most importantly experience in why the standard we now seem to have doesn’t work. She is a better journalist than 98% of the people working as one.

  29. 29
    Roger Moore says:

    @👾 Martin:

    There’s a good case to be made that the American Dream is simply the ability to risk, fail, and recover.

    Second chances are the prerogative of the wealthy. If you want to understand why we have inequality and social immobility, you only have to look at the inequality of opportunities. Rich kids get plenty of chances to screw up and start over, while poor kids are lucky if they can get anywhere even if they do everything perfectly.

  30. 30
    Kay says:

    @👾 Martin:

    It’s great that she said it, because it makes me look at my middle son differently. He was a poor student in high school (unlike the older two) and so he didn’t leave after high school. He has a job and it’s a small town, so I’m aware of his every move and/or screw up. The truth is I have no idea what the other two were doing while away at school at his age. They got good grades and weren’t arrested, so no one ever told me.

  31. 31
    eldorado says:

    @Principalmoss – hey, my hands are tied. If i showed even a little bit of tolerance, we couldn’t call it zero-tolerance.

  32. 32
    Ruckus says:

    @Hungry Joe:
    This quite effectively teaches kids 1) not to have accidents, and 2) that adults in general, and authority figures in particular, are idiots.

    Not to be too much of a smartass, but don’t kids in general think that of most adults they meet?

  33. 33
    Violet says:

    @Hungry Joe: I remember hearing about that–or a similar incident. It made national news. Just stupid. Kids learning they can never make mistakes is incredibly stressful. Plus, they’ll go to any lengths to avoid getting caught for stupid stuff because the punishment is so severe.

  34. 34
    Kay says:

    @raven:

    The one’s that dropout are even worse off.

    I moved a filing cabinet from my kitchen to the office and found the essay I wrote for the GED. They mailed it back to you in GA at that time when you passed. I told you I took it in Atlanta.

    I sound exactly the same as I do now. I haven’t matured a whole lot :)

  35. 35
    Violet says:

    @Ruckus: Not really, no. If the adults and authority figures treat the kids with respect, the kid generally respond to it. Not all of them and all the time, but as a general rule they do.

  36. 36
    Roger Moore says:

    @eldorado:
    In fairness to the zero tolerance, mandatory punishment people, those things were adopted for a reason. There were real, justified worries about schools treating students unequally; rich white kids would be treated with kid gloves while poor and minority students would have the book thrown at them. The real problem is that we created equality by making sure nobody got a second chance, rather than by making sure that everyone got one.

  37. 37
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    If the story that jayjaybear linked to is accurate, it looks like the school can expel him for being a “drug dealer.” Like I said, I can’t help but be a little cynical and think that it would be a good way for schools to get rid of their more expensive special ed students — Hey, we tried to help him, but he was selling pot, so not our problem anymore.

  38. 38
    raven says:

    @Kay: Ha! I have the USAFI-GED results. As far as I can recall there was no written in 1967. I’m really worried now that Pearson Publishing has gotten their grimy fucking hands on it. My understanding is that some states are going other ways on a “second chance” credential.

  39. 39
    hoodie says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Second chances are the prerogative of the wealthy.

    It wasn’t that way a generation ago. Everything’s winner takes all now, and winners are increasingly limited to (1) the preternaturally talented, (2) those lucky in birth and (3) criminals. There are more falling under (2) and (3) than (1), and that those falling under (1) really fall under (2) anyway. Hard work and perseverance are great, but success via that route now dictates freakish levels of intensity. This makes sense, of course, because such high barriers to mobility make a perfect moat for protecting the already fortunate from competition.

  40. 40
    Ruckus says:

    @Violet:
    Maybe it’s projection from my early years. As I got older and saw how some kids got treated and others doing the same thing didn’t, I lost a lot of respect for many adults. And I’m pretty sure a lot of my friends did as well, because we discussed respect. Not necessarily in so many words but we did discuss it. On the other hand I also had adults that I looked up to and highly respected so even then I understood that growing older didn’t necessarily mean growing more mature. That view hasn’t changed.

  41. 41
    EriktheRed says:

    I’m sure if you look at the roots of these “zero tolerance” policies, you’ll find individuals who stand to profit a great deal from our privatization of the prison system.

  42. 42
    gian says:

    I have seen zero tolerance mean the school will suspend the bully and the victim where before the school would suspend neither.
    I imagine that helps create a no snitching culture and reduced reporting of bullying/ violence

  43. 43
    Botsplainer says:

    @Hungry Joe:

    Even the school administrators believed that it was an accident. But they expelled him anyway, because of Zero Tolerance, explaining — not at all apologetically — that their hands were tied.

    I remember one time having an issue with my oldest daughter in a math class where the milksop teaching it had lost control, thereby rendering it impossible for my kid to master or even learn the basics of the subject. In the meeting, I was told that hands were tied. My response was an eloquent series of statements dripping with both sarcasm and threat designed to make the utterer look like the complete idiot he was – in the end, the changes that I was requesting (for which “their hands were tied”) occurred.

    Never take those statements at face value, and never be afraid to make a school administrator look like an incompetent asshole in front of his or her staff.

  44. 44
    tybee says:

    @Botsplainer:

    Never take those statements at face value, and never be afraid to make a school administrator look like an incompetent asshole in front of his or her staff.

    absolutely right.

  45. 45
    BGinCHI says:

    Kay, I just want to say, cuz I don’t say this enough, your posts here are GREAT.

    I would drive to Ohio and take you out for a big steak dinner but it’s 40 fucking below zero.

    Keep up the good work. Seriously.

  46. 46
    Kay says:

    @raven:

    I’m really worried now that Pearson Publishing has gotten their grimy fucking hands on it.

    It made me sick to read the Pearson GED scam. I got a test prep book from the library to study for the GED, which I also did for the LSAT. I like standardized tests because I understand what they want, which is funny given my current political obsession.

    Now they’ll dun the drop-outs for some wildly expensive “prep course”, I’m sure, in addition to the fact that the Pearson GED test costs 4X as much online, for some unknown reason. Shouldn’t it be cheaper? I was promised “paperless” would be cheaper!

  47. 47
    Hungry Joe says:

    @Ruckus: Yeah, a lot of kids probably do think that adults in general and authority figures in particular are idiots, but we shouldn’t go out of our way to prove them right.

  48. 48
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Rich kids get plenty of chances to screw up and start over, while poor kids are lucky if they can get anywhere even if they do everything perfectly.

    And what we end up with is a myth of redemption promulgated by those who could always buy their way out of trouble all along, but never wanted it to look that way.

  49. 49

    I have zero tolerance for zero tolerance policies. Wait…..

  50. 50
    Jay C says:

    because that’s how kids who never belonged there in the first place remain in the juvenile justice system once they enter it.

    Call me cynical, but I think a vital part of promulgating the “zero tolerance” culture in American schools has been a willingness to assign an overly broad responsibility of deciding “who belongs there“. A responsibility that, in most cases seems to be fairly unaccountable as long as it is only the usual suspects, i.e. the poor and/or wrongly-colored, who suffer from the policy.

  51. 51
    Gene108 says:

    @Kay:

    Test prep companies should be closely regulated utilities, because they are pushing so hard to find ways to expand it is hurting society.

  52. 52
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Schlemizel: I have a relative who is an EA working under a similar system you describe. She works her butt off and is considering furthering her education. She helps the kids eat, changes them, takes them to class, and helps them with their studies. However, she is the first to admit it doesn’t meet all the needs of the students and there are some coworkers who treat the job like a high school babysitting gig. (One coworker has “lost” a child twice in the building and pretends not to notice when a diaper needs to be changed.) She believes there needs to be training set up for EA’s to better understand their students’ conditions and know how to best help them.

  53. 53
    Kay says:

    @BGinCHI:

    My eldest lives in Chicago and even he’s complaining. He used to take 2 hour walks here in the dead of winter, so he’s not overly sensitive to cold. We were having a competitive bitch-fest last night. I was unavailable when he called so he emailed me with ” thanks for your concern, if you don’t hear from me again, I died of hypothermia”. I responded with “we have a LEVEL THREE, I have my own PROBLEMS”
    He bought an apartment in December, so he’s staying in Chicago. I knew he wasn’t ever coming back here, he’s not a big fan of rural Ohio, but I was surprised he “committed” in that way to Chicago. I thought he’d move around for a while.

  54. 54
    👾 Martin says:

    @Kay:

    We were having a competitive bitch-fest last night. I was unavailable when he called so he emailed me with ” thanks for your concern, if you don’t hear from me again, I died of hypothermia”. I responded with “we have a LEVEL THREE, I have my own PROBLEMS”

    I was reminding my mom in Iowa that it would be 120 degrees warmer here in SoCal than there, wind chill considered… Oh, and that it was warmer on Mars at that moment.

  55. 55
    Schlemizel says:

    @👾 Martin:

    How you react to the discipline problems though is a human thing & subject to all the frailties of humanity.

    Yes, solving poverty would solve 80% of the problems but poverty cannot be an excuse for allowing one or two children to disrupt, or in some cases threaten and injure, classmates. School officials will always have some number of incidents that need to be dealt with, you can’t ignore them simply because the student is poor.

    Thats a separate issue from the fact that poor schools have more trouble than well to do ones.

  56. 56
    Jeffro says:

    @Botsplainer: Um, assuming they merit it, right? This part

    My response was an eloquent series of statements dripping with both sarcasm and threat designed to make the utterer look like the complete idiot he was

    sounds like someone in love with the sound of his own NPD. Jesus. If you’re right on the merits, then just argue the merits, not your own “eloquence dripping with sarcasm and threat”.

  57. 57
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s taking them out of school and putting them into the juvenile justice system when they shouldn’t be there, and once they’re in that system they start to believe they belong there and once the big court machine starts rolling it’s hard to get them OUT of it and back to school

    My own experience is first hand with my son. (Dope, a knife) I want to tell you that even when the system wants to, is trying, to the best of its ability to help the child, it starts grinding on them, to the point where the child begins to feel there is no escape.

    I do NOT want to give the impression that what my son went thru was typical. It was not. For starters, it was a constant battle with my ex to get him to the counseling and the community service, and get his home schooling done. The County Juvenile Case Officer was a saint because he continued to work with me at all times and ALWAYS with my son at the forefront of his thoughts. (It helped that he believed in me) My ex, was a constant roadblock. As was her lawyer who was supposed to be my son’s lawyer(a friend of my son’s told me he got the dope from her. True? False? I could not know. but I passed it on).

    At times my son became so depressed during this time that I feared for his life. There were other issues. MANY other issues. But it only got better when my ex went to prison. I suspect that that, is all too common a denominator.

    Our “adversarial system”, is NOT in the best interests of children in far too many of these cases. They don’t need adversaries, they need allies.

  58. 58
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Ruckus:

    Kay gives us depth, reasoning and most importantly experience in why the standard we now seem to have doesn’t work. She is a better journalist than 98% of the people working as one.

    Right you are! She also has the ability — I almost wrote unique ability; it’s not that, but it is increasingly rare — to see the links, connect the dots, and address the underlying problems. Too many “journalists” and pundits treat poverty, education, health, the justice system, and drugs as five separate unrelated issues. Or at best, they do a facile, sketchy link with no substance.

    I bless the day John Cole invited Kay to be a front-pager.

  59. 59
    Schlemizel says:

    @YellowJournalism:

    Its a crime but the school district can’t afford to hire credentialed teachers for these jobs (and probably couldn’t even if they had the cash). The job is part-time even for the 6 months a year you work. They tend to draw untrained women who either don’t need the money or are desperate (Here it does pay in the low-teens per hour). Those who enjoy it stay but there is a revolving door of people who can’t cut it; they just let one go for chocking a student.

    There should be training for them but there is not, thee is no money for such luxury.

  60. 60
    Jebediah, RBG says:

    @Botsplainer:

    never be afraid to make a school administrator look like an incompetent asshole in front of his or her staff.

    My mom had to do that once or twice. One of my younger brothers was catching a lot of unwarranted shit from his teachers in elementary school. She got a call one day that he was in the principal’s office for talking in class. When she got there, she asked where the other kid was. “My son isn’t crazy; he doesn’t talk to himself. Where is the kid he was talking to?” He did get treated a bit more fairly from then on. (He went on to a successful career with UBS, from which he has retired to be an auto mechanic in Vermont. I’m a little jealous.)

  61. 61
    raven says:

    @Kay: They can be taken online but the person still has to go to a testing site.

  62. 62
    Ruckus says:

    @Hungry Joe:
    That was sort of the unwritten part of my comment. If we don’t want to be taken for assholes and idiots as we get older, maybe we shouldn’t act like assholes and idiots. It really isn’t that hard, unless one really is an idiot. It’s us that’s changed as we get older, I don’t see a lot of difference between when I was a kid and now, other than the major issues we are discussing on this post. Times change, people really not as much.

  63. 63
    Kay says:

    @👾 Martin:

    My middle son works for a Honda supplier and they shut down last night, here. I know it’s bad when big “private sector” employers close.
    I just read last night that driving in a level three “subjects one to arrest” in this state. I had no idea. I was thinking about how nuts libertarians went when Boston shut down after the bombing. Apparently I’m under “house arrest” all the time between blizzards in the winter and tornadoes in the summer, and wasn’t aware of it.

    Don’t tread on me, statists!

  64. 64
    Yatsuno says:

    @Schlemizel: My mother was an EA right before she retired, but the school district required her to have at least an associate in education or proof she was working towards one. She got it her second year in, which opened up more opportunities for her. I don’t know if that is a state requirement or just a district one. It does make sense however that some education beyond high school is necessary.

  65. 65
    patroclus says:

    The Obama administration’s policies and practices regarding education are essentially to fund the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act, which provides necessary resources to public schools across the country. To say that one disagrees with that (without any other explanation) is foolish and ill-informed. ESEA, along with all the other Adam Clayton Powell laws enacted during LBJ’s Great Society period, are uncontroversial and supported by nearly everyone in the U.S. other than a minority of Republicans nihilists.

    Compared with the massive funding provided via ESEA, the drug issue seems minor. But I certainly support Obama there too. As well as on the substantial rewrite of the student loan laws (which apply mostly to students at “public” schools).

  66. 66
    BGinCHI says:

    @Kay: Well, it’s a great city. I come from rural IN and I would NEVER, ever live there again. Nice to visit but that’s it.

    What does he do for a living?

  67. 67
    cmorenc says:

    @Kay:

    I say I object to the nutty proliferation and single-minded focus on standardized testing, today, right now, I’m not talking about when you aced the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in 1987.

    Try, standardized tests circa 1967 (HS seniors taking SAT) or 1962 (we took something, but cannot for the life of me remember what – possibly even some in-school version of an IQ test!)

  68. 68
    KG says:

    @raven: they apparently put them back in after I graduated… only took them like 20 years to do it. hell, we had assemblies where they joked about it, it was one student’s “wish”

  69. 69
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @patroclus: Actually the whole Race to the Top concept that includes an expansion of charter schools and ranking teachers based on test scores is a big problem. It is also a signature Obama education program.

  70. 70
    Schlemizel says:

    @Yatsuno:

    I believe here in MN it is a district level decision on EAs. When times are good they take anyone, right now they are requiring a 4 year degree and interestingly enough are getting mostly people with teaching certs because they see it as a way to gain entry to the district when there are no teachers being hired.

    That said, the skills to be a special ed EA are different from being a teacher and some can’t cut it. I doubt there would ever be a degree program for it but I would be strongly in favor of some sort of state-wide training and certification for the job that had to be completed in the first couple of years with regular training after. The district we live in has regular training but I don’t feel it is as much as is needed.

  71. 71

    Moreover, children detained pending adjudication are more likely to be committed to a juvenile facility than children who are not detained, regardless of the charges against them. Research links incarceration of juveniles to … increased future contacts with the criminal justice system.

    What’s so infuriating about all this is it is true about adults too. We’ve known this process of stigmatization and “net widening” exists in the Criminal Justice system and adults since the 60’s and 70’s but people are just now realizing it about juveniles? Sometimes the stupidity in this country beggars belief.

    How the f*ck could they not know that if these kinds of things negatively affect even hardened adults, that it would irreparably harm still evolving children? This is the kind of thing that drove me out of working in the Criminal Justice System 20 years ago. The odds that someone actually can get out of the system and stay out, is so out of their control and out of control of the average CJ actor that there’s no point in even trying to help anyone. Once they’re in, they’re screwed…and I worked with adults. It’s like a frigging black hole and the fact that we use it for inconsequential schools BS is pure insanity.

  72. 72
    Poopyman says:

    @BGinCHI: It’s true. I shoulda paid for her dinner in Minneapolis.

    (Feeling lucky to have had the temp only now dip below freezing on its way to zero tonight.)

  73. 73
    Baud says:

    Glad to see so many others embarrassing Kay with the praise she deserves.

  74. 74
    Mike G says:

    @EriktheRed:

    I’m sure if you look at the roots of these “zero tolerance” policies, you’ll find individuals who stand to profit a great deal from our privatization of the prison system.

    Or who have an ideological agenda that celebrates punishment and keeping down “certain kinds” of people. More of the ugly filth that Reagan dragged into American culture.

  75. 75
    Kay says:

    @BGinCHI:

    He works for a big tech company. He began there at a big company, left for a “start up”, and then the start up got bought by another big company. His GF is a prosecutor, and as you know lawyers tend to stay in the state in which they’re licensed, so I’m sure that played into the decision. It should have. She’s great.

  76. 76
    MikeBoyScout says:

    Anecdotal re Meridian MS

    I’ve a relative who attended school in Meridian, MS and lived under these policies.
    He’s a white male.
    He’s an addict.
    He’s a wanted felon.
    His life is ruined.

    The ‘zero tolerance’ policy drove him over the edge by not dealing with a manageable problem and blacklisting him as a schoolboy …. for life.

    Pray it does not happen to you and yours.

  77. 77
    GHayduke (formerly lojasmo) says:

    @👾 Martin: It is probably simultaneously warmer and colder on Mars than it is here.

  78. 78
    MomSense says:

    I have always disliked the phrase zero tolerance. I know what they mean by it, but it has another meaning. Don’t we want more tolerance in schools and our communities?

    I’m probably a little biased because I was a teacher for many years, but it seems that we keep giving our teachers and students less and less–we cut support, pay, funding. We disrespect our teachers and give them more students, less freedom, lower budgets, and more responsibilities. Then we act shocked, shocked when we see higher dropout rates or lower academic performance. So then the discussion becomes all about accountability–and the onus is all on the students and teachers to somehow meet our expectations without reflecting the lack of support we give them.

    The problem is us. We keep treating students with these condescending messages about how they are the future while we consistently fail to meet our obligations to their present. It is the classic shit runs down hill.

  79. 79
    jl says:

    Thanks for the post and interesting links, Kay.

    I was going to make a Brooksian jest, that growing up in the late 60s through the 70s, I bear the horrible burden of history of lax discipline during my childhood and adolescence. Fortunately, I was able to overcome this handicap, but I want to spare our precious youth of today of this menace to virtue and morality, so I recommend we give them a gentle nudge by coming down on them like a forge hammer if they even fart wrong.

    But, the ghastly unfair mess is so sad and maddening, I don’t feel like making a Brooksian joke about it.

  80. 80
    👾 Martin says:

    I would also point out that here, zero tolerance public policies have been a windfall for private schools – particularly the Catholic schools. You’re ostracized from the publics when you screw up, but the tuition collectors are happy to have you. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear about lobbying by private schools for these policies. They also don’t need to participate in standardized testing, or release their test results unlike the privates, so that too is a policy that favors them.

  81. 81
    Ruckus says:

    @Ms. D. Ranged in AZ:
    I can’t think of a single time in my life that conservatives have ever accepted responsibility for their asinine views of how the world works. Reality is just something they don’t believe in.

  82. 82
    patroclus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Yeah, but the importance of Race to the Top compared to the actual funding mechanisms is pretty minimal. As a former elected Local School Council member, my primary responsibility was making sure teachers got paid, and they get that from ESEA and state Chapter 1 funding. The substantial “problem” is that some Republicans want to reduce/abolish funding and eliminate the DoE, which administers ESEA. To disagree with the Obama administration’s support of ESEA through its annual budget is idiotic.

  83. 83
    Interrobang says:

    Every so often, I have to stop and thank whatever analogue of G-d I do or don’t believe in that I was well out of school by the time Columbine happened, because even up here in Canada, people have still bought into this crap a disturbing amount of the time. While I don’t believe it’s widened the school-to-prison pipeline as much, it has still caused a lot of problems.

    And when you grew up weird, bullied, and non-conforming like I did, even despite having good grades, I could have very easily wound up with a huge target on my back. Say goodbye to those two degrees I have and the well-paying job…

  84. 84
    BGinCHI says:

    @Kay: One of my best friends here, who is a writer, has a prosecutor for a wife. Bet they know each other. She’s also great. Works tough hours though….

  85. 85
    Chris Rich says:

    The testing industry is like an extension of the crap text book industry, a form of corporate welfare.

    One of the biggest employers in the Dover New Hampshire area is an outfit that sucks up public money to run the outsourced tests.

    It’s called “Measured Progress” and it measures its way to the bank.

    Another legacy of the Bush era.

  86. 86
    Kay says:

    @patroclus:

    The substantial “problem” is that some Republicans want to reduce/abolish funding and eliminate the DoE, which administers ESEA. To disagree with the Obama administration’s support of ESEA through its annual budget is idiotic.

    I don’t “disagree” with federal funding of public schools and to set it up like that, where that’s my two choices, “abolish federal funding and eliminate the DOE or accept the Obama Administration’s education agenda and swallow it whole” is ridiculous.

    “Bad or… WORSE” are not my only two choices. Arne Duncan should spend less time with Bill Gates and Eli Broad and Michelle Rhee and more time worrying about whether he’s going to leave existing public schools (which educate 90% of kids in this country) worse off than when he started.

    Public schools need an advocate in government. That’s where 90% of the kids are.

  87. 87
    mclaren says:

    Au contraire. Zero tolerance policies will increase, not get reduced. Zero tolerance in schools is designed to produce pliable cringing serfs, a nation of whimpering yes-men and yes-women who eagerly worship the bullies in power in American society. And zero tolerance is doing its intended job.

    Just look at the craven whimpering bully-worshipers like burnspbesq and eemom and yutsano and omnes omnibus who infest this forum. These people are perfect products of America’s zero tolerance prison-educational system. Turn schools into prisons, savagely punish the slightest sign of independence from students, and you get an electorate that clicks its heels and shouts with joy each time America’s leaders announce some new atrocity.

    Zero tolerance will get much much much worse. It’s the 21st century American equivalent of Mao’s 1960s-era “thought reform” or the 1950s Stalinist Soviet effort to create “the new Soviet man.” And guess what?

    Judging by the veritable bukkake of cowardice we observe among commenters on this forum, it’s succeeding.

  88. 88
    Plantsmantx says:

    @Roger Moore:

    There were real, justified worries about schools treating students unequally; rich white kids would be treated with kid gloves while poor and minority students would have the book thrown at them.

    This is exactly what has happened under so-called zero tolerance, which has turned out to be zero tolerance for nonwhite kids, in much the same way the War on Drugs has turned out to be a war on black people.

  89. 89
    slag says:

    @Kay:

    Who knew that surrounding them with enraged, out of control adults in uniforms and positions of power might mean they then model that behavior? Screaming chaos seems to create more screaming chaos.

    Yes.

    And Kay, it may not mean much, but I wanted to let you know that these kinds of posts help revitalize those of us who are trying (in our own tiny way) to shift the balance toward a more just and equanimous community. Because it can be, at times, a frustrating–even infuriating–endeavor, it helps to get these big-picture reminders periodically. So, thanks!

  90. 90
    ☠dance around in your bones says:

    Trying to emulate Martin with a symbol in my nym – here goes nothin’ !

  91. 91
    dance around in your bones says:

    Ok, never mind – the symbol cuts off the letter ‘s’ and creates a rather unfortunate image…

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